Surging Mediaset Stock Boosts Silvio Berlusconi's Net Worth, 'Forbes' Ranking

2:08 AM PST 03/04/2014 by Eric J. Lyman
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Silvio Berlusconi

The controversial Italian media tycoon, who had lost ground on the magazine's list of billionaires every since 2009, is doing well financially despite personal, political and legal woes.

ROME – Buoyed by entertainment giant Mediaset's surging stock, Italy's controversial former prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has reversed a multi-year trend to climb higher on the latest annual Forbes Magazine billionaires list.

Estimating his net worth at $9 billion, Berlusconi checked in on the list at number 141. That's a big improvement from the 2013 list, on which he ranked 194th with an estimated net worth of $6.2 billion.

The jump reverses a slide that saw him drop from 70th in 2009 to 74th, 118th and then 169th in 2012. The last time Forbes estimated his net worth above this year's $9 billion was in 2008 when his fortune was believed to be $9.4 billion.

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Berlusconi has a resurgent Mediaset stock price to thank for his good fortunes: the company's shares touched a new 52-week high last week at $5.90 (€4.30), and many analysts predict they could pierce the €5 ($6.85) level in the coming weeks, a threshold they have not crossed since late 2011. Mediaset's stock is up 18 percent this year and up 250 percent since reaching an all-time low in late 2012.

Berlusconi, whose holdings include three national television networks in Italy and one in Spain, plus filmmaker Medusa, is dealing with a host of personal, political and legal problems though.

He is awaiting a court verdict to determine alimony payments to his ex-wife Veronica Lario. A previous ruling requiring him to pay her $50 million a year is under appeal.

Meanwhile, the three-time Italian prime minister has seen his political influence slip after he was stripped of his Senate seat and the political movement he founded was split by the defection of former lieutenant Angelino Alfano.

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Additionally, the 77-year-old must soon start serving a year of house arrest after a definitive conviction for false accounting and tax evasion in connection with a series of big-ticket content deals with U.S. studios. He is also on trial or awaiting appeal on other charges, including bribery, illegal wire taps, abuse of power and paying an underage girl -- erotic dancer Karima el-Mahroug, then 17 -- for sex.

Despite the latest gains on the Forbes list, Berlusconi is still far from his peak in 2005 when his net worth was estimated at $12.1 billion and he was ranked as the world's 25th richest person. He was the richest person in Italy at that time, but is now only sixth.

The richest Italian is chocolatier Michele Ferrero, but most of the Italians ranked ahead of Berlusconi are from the fashion industry, including icons Miuccio Prada, Giorgio Armani and sunglasses mogul Leonardo Del Vecchio.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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